The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’s criticism – the cinema-theater hybrid is an unwieldy beast | National Theater of Scotland

JTwo years ago, the idea would have been outlandish: why would Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story be replayed in the dilapidated corridors and back rooms of the Leith Theater while the public watched a live screening in the auditorium? ? But it’s 2022 and cinema-theater hybrids are as current as face masks and hand gel.

Too bad the performance itself is so dated. I’m not referring to the 1940s pastiche atmosphere created so effectively by writer and director Hope Dickson Leach in her black-and-white film. With its austere side lighting, dark backdrops and diffused glow from tall windows in Edinburgh’s New Town, it looks like David Lean’s adaptation of Dickens. Throw in a touch of film noir, and you’ve got a backdrop scary enough for Henry Pettigrew’s Dr. Jekyll to slowly disintegrate into the murderous Mr. Hyde.

No, what squeaks is the adaptation. It’s a National Theater of Scotland production, recorded live for its opening weekend ahead of a cinema release, and yet it looks too buttoned up to be theatrical. A costume drama driven by talkative Victorian men keeping their passions just below the surface.

And this despite the fact that Dickson Leach moved the setting from London to his spiritual home of Edinburgh and worked on themes that should resonate. Lorn Macdonald’s Utterson is a rising lawyer who hangs out in the New Club with a gang of callous businessmen who exploit the town’s brewery workers while devising a vain plan to build the National Monument of Scotland in the top of Calton Hill.

Today’s capitalists are no less prone to mechanization and vanity schemes, yet this humorless band of villains seem to have little to do with our world. The imagery of desecrated graves and purgative leeches suggests a social order built, like Jekyll’s festering alter ego, on immoral foundations. But it’s an idea that remains latent in a production in which the villains are too blatantly corrupt while their victims are too simply innocent.

The gothic power of Stevenson’s story still wields a grip, but it’s hard to see this hybrid experience satisfying filmmakers or theatergoers.

Theater tour completed. In cinemas from February 27.

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